Monday’s Pregame Shootaround: Bedlam in Oklahoma after Duke visits Pitt

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 17 Duke at No. 18 Pitt, 7:00 p.m.

Like it or not, this is the ACC that we’re working with now: Pitt hosting Duke in a pivotal league battle. The Panthers have yet to beat an NCAA tournament caliber team, and their poor scheduling has left a team that, by most metrics, is really, really good sitting at 18th in the country. The Blue Devils have apparently righted the ship, shaking off whatever was ailing them — and Jabari Parker — while cruising to four straight wins. That, alone, makes this game important.

But there’s more at stake here. On Saturday, Duke heads up to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse. Pitt will host Virginia, who has quietly improved to 6-1 in league play, that same day. The Orange already are all alone in first place in the ACC. A loss from Pitt would drop them two games off the pace. If Duke loses tonight, they’d be heading to the Dome to avoid falling four games behind the Orange.

Suffice to say, this is one of the most important weeks of ACC basketball this season.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 23 Oklahoma, 9:00 p.m.


It’s been a decade since the Cowboys have won in Norman. Marcus Smart and company will look to change that, but Travis Ford’s all-american point guard will need to play much smarter than he did on Saturday, when his emotions got the best of him and almost cost Oklahoma State the win. The Sooners have won three in a row and can score with the best of them, but this is not a team known for their defense. What’s fun about this matchup is that both teams play small and spread the floor.

THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 9 Villanova at Georgetown, 9:00 p.m.

Villanova bounced back from a drubbing they took at the hands of Creighton to knock off Marquette in Milwaukee on Saturday. Georgetown, on the other hand, is in a tailspin. Josh Smith is done for the year due to academic issues. They’ve lost four games in a row and currently sit at 3-5 in league play and 11-8 overall. They have chances — two games against Villanova, a visit from Creighton and a game on Saturday against Michigan State — to turn things around, but this is a two-man team that is overmatched by everyone in the paint.


1) You mean beyond that juicy goodness above?

2) A couple of interesting battles atop the MEAC tonight, as 5-1 Savannah State hosts 5-2 Norfolk State while 4-1 Morgan State squares off with 4-1 North Carolina Central.

3) There is some action in the SWAC as well, as Alcorn State squares off with Southern.

Sister Jean: “I don’t care that you broke my bracket.”

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As Missouri Valley Conference player of the year Clayton Custer came off the floor after Loyola earned its spot in the Elite Eight after beating Nevada, he had to make a quick apology.

He had to tell the Ramblers’ star fan Sister Jean he was sorry. She, of course, had picked Loyola’s Cinderella run to end in the Sweet 16 in her bracket before the start of the tournament.

The apology was quickly accepted.

“I said I don’t care that you broke my bracket,” Sister Jean said. “I’m ready for the next one.

“For a nice little school like ours, we are just so proud of them.”

Michigan’s hot shooting carries them into the Elite Eight past Texas A&M

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Historically known as a team that lived and died with the three-ball, No. 3-seed Michigan had spent the first weekend of the NCAA tournament proving history wrong.

In an ugly game in their opener against Montana, the Wolverines shot 5-for-16 from three while turning the ball over 14 times and managing a measly 61 points. Against Houston in the second round, Michigan shot 8-for-30 from beyond the arc, with one of those threes coming courtesy of Jordan Poole at the buzzer, sending the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win.

Put another way, Michigan looked the part of the defensive grinder that they turned into this season.

Against No. 7-seed Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, however, the Wolverines turned into the Golden State Warriors.

Michigan bested the number of three that they had made in the tournament to date, hitting 14-of-24 bombs while shooting 62 percent from the floor in a 99-72 win over an Aggies team that had finally, for the first time since November, looked the part of the SEC title contender that they have the talent to be.

No. 11 Loyola moves on to Elite Eight after beating No. 7 Nevada

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Loyola is in the Elite Eight.

The Ramblers’ dream run through March continued Thursday as they knocked off No. 7 Nevada, 69-68, in South Region semifinal in Atlanta.

Loyola, an 11th seed making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985, will play the winner of Kansas State and Kentucky on Sunday for a chance to return to the Final Four for the first time since it won the 1963 national championship.

Marques Townes hit a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds to play to put the Ramblers up four and put the game all but out of reach for Nevada. Townes finished with 18 points while Clayton Custer had 15.  Loyola shot 55.8 percent from the floor for the game.

The Wolf Pack’s Caleb Martin had 21 points while Jordan Caroline had 19. Nevada shot 41.4 percent from the floor.

Nevada looked like it may overwhelm Loyola early as it built a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Ramblers, though, struck back by keeping the Wolf Pack off the board for nearly the last 8 minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead into the break.

The strong play considered on the other side of halftime for Loyola, which astonishingly made its first 13 shots of the second half. Still, despite the perfect start, the Ramblers only briefly took a double-digit lead before Nevada sliced it back down below 10.

Loyola’s inability to build a substantial lead came back to bite it as Nevada, the comeback kids of this tournament, mounted its attack on the deficit and had it erased before the under-four timeout, setting up the final frantic minutes of a battle for a spot in the Elite Eight that the Ramblers claimed thanks to Townes’ late triple.

2018 March Madness: Fans in Times Square pick fake teams in Sweet 16 predictions

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NBC Sports went into Times Square this week to ask basketball fans for their Sweet 16 picks.

The only problem?

The teams in the games are not actually playing in the NCAA Tournament.

They aren’t even actually teams.

Hilarity ensued.

Miami’s Bruce Brown declares for draft without an agent

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Bruce Brown wants to hear what the NBA has to say.

The Miami sophomore has declared for the draft but will not hire an agent, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game during his second season with the Hurricanes. He did, though, see his shooting numbers take a tumble compared to his freshman season with his field goal percentage down from 45.9 to 41.5 percent and his 3-point shoot go from 34.7 to 26.7 percent. There’s also the matter of a foot injury that required surgery and kept him off the floor for the ‘Canes’ last 12 games.

By declaring for the draft, Brown can get in front of NBA teams, who will likely take a very close look at his shooting mechanics after that sophomore season downturn. It will also be an opportunity for him to build up his reputation in the professional ranks after spending much of his sophomore season injured.